The federal government has marked National Meals on Wheels Day by announcing that it will boost its volunteer grants program.
Ageing Minister, Justine Elliot and Parliamentary Secretary for the Voluntary Sector, Ursula Stephens said the government would provide a further $21 million to the program in this year’s round.
While Meals on Wheels providers welcomed the extra funding for the voluntary sector, they called for investment in longer term policy issues.
Meals on Wheels began 55 years ago with a service providing meals to eight people and today it provides over 50,000 meals to people throughout the country every day.
More than 78,000 volunteers across Australia donate their time and their vehicles to deliver meals.
The CEO of NSW Meals on Wheels, Les MacDonald said the biggest issue facing his members was the challenge of recruiting younger volunteers.
“It’s not so difficult attracting older people but a lot of them are ageing and could soon be clients themselves,” he said.
“We know that younger people do volunteer but they tend to do so for shorter amounts of time and for causes that are close to their heart.
“It’s hard to make Meals on Wheels close to the hearts of younger people.”
Providers are considering a number of ways to make their services more attractive, such as establishing new time structures and giving their volunteers certificate qualifications.
But Mr MacDonald said further research was needed to re-shape volunteering to meet future needs.
“Because really, our volunteers are the glue that holds these services together,” he said. “Without them these vital services would simply not exist.”
“It costs government a dollar a day to have a person receiving Meals on Wheels, it costs them about $100 a day to keep them in residential care and about $1,000 a day to keep them in hospital.
“And apart from the cost, when a person is in residential or hospital care they tend not to be as happy. It is crucial to help people stay in their own homes where they want to be.”